Diamond Drive embraces cyclists

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New bike lane runs 2.4 miles in each direction along busy street

By Carol A. Clark

Local cycling instructor Khalil Spencer could hardly wait to finish his errands so he could get home and hop on his Salsa Lacruz bicycle to take a closer look at the new bike lanes on Diamond Drive.

With much of the final pavement laid in front of Metzgers and across from Los Alamos High School, that section of Phase 4 construction is largely history.

“Now cyclists, walkers and bus riders no longer have to feel like they are in the back of the great transportation bus,” Spencer said. “The bike lanes look as advertised, except they seem a tad narrow under the pedestrian overpass, which was done without moving the bridge. But even there I think they look at least four feet wide — at any rate, no one will have to hold their breath riding under the pedestrian bridge anymore.”

Pavement Division Manager Tom Roach said moving the pedestrian overpass would have required a total rebuild to Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Bike lanes are required to measure at least 5 feet and that measurement can include the gutter pan (gutter and curb) area, which measures 18 inches, said Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman.

“I tried to give the cyclists 5 feet of asphalt everywhere feasible,” Zimmerman said. “The bike lane is also 5 feet under the pedestrian bridge but includes the gutter pan.”

Bicycles ride on the asphalt in this area, he said, with handlebars hovering in the gutter pan area.

While most of Diamond Drive’s bike lanes are in areas with few side streets and other turning and crossing points, Spencer cautions that the bike lanes in this new section are in “a very busy area of town.”

“Cyclists and motorists must be really careful in this section to avoid the usual turning and crossing hazards typical to these installations,” he said.

Spencer gave examples such as a cyclist overtaking slower traffic on the right in the blind spot of a motorist who is about to make a right turn. A second example is a motorist overtaking a cyclist and then braking to turn right.

“Both of these common scenarios result in the cyclist hitting or being hit by the side of the car,” Spencer said. “Be careful out there — these nifty new bike lanes don’t take the place of active personal safety and smart riding. If anything, they require a higher degree of vigilance.”

The new bike lane runs 2.43 miles in each direction from the beginning of Phase 1 at the roundabout down to the end of Phase 4 at Diamond and Canyon, Zimmerman said, adding that the bike lanes will ultimately continue to and from the Omega Bridge when final construction of Phase 4 begins in the spring.